Graduation in the South of France

TL;DR: I graduated, had a vacation, and discovered that my French isn’t half as good as I thought.

Yep, I graduated. Last week*. I have bittersweet feelings about this, because the past 2 years have been good to me (and I’m not just talking about collecting a regular allowance from the parents), so I’d hate to leave all of this behind; on the other hand, it’s time for my next set of adventures.
But first, a brief account of what went down during the week of my graduation. I arrived in Marseille on Tuesday with my friends, and we promptly proceeded to behave like tourists by whipping out a sunscreen can and spraying generously on our limbs, right there at the airport! In our defence, the weather was lousy when we were leaving Netherlands, so no one really thought to use sunscreen before getting on the plane. I was just glad to shed all those layers of clothing as the plane began to touch down in Marseille. We still had our transport cards from back when we lived in France (and we brought them with us because travelling between Aix en Provence and Marseille is quite expensive without those cards), so we topped them up right there at the airport, got on the bus, and headed for Aix en Provence.

In Aix, we found a decently-priced restaurant, ordered some lunch,  I had a steak with fries and it was meh –  because bad things always happen whenever I order a steak – and then we went wandering around the shops. I left the actual shopping to my friends, and played the role of the sometimes-bemused-sometimes-amused tourist who isn’t buying anything but is quite content to let you try to make her buy. No one succeeded. I’m not such a fan of macarons but my friend bought some salty ones and we proceeded to hold them up as ‘eyepatches’ and take pictures.

Wednesday: La Plage. Of course, you cannot leave the dreary weather in Holland** and not attempt to soak up all the sandy goodness when you go to the South of France!

Sand, check; sunglasses, check; book, check; wine, check. And a good time was had by all.

Thursday: Commencement. It really was not that serious. In Netherlands and Finland, especially in Finland, no one really cares about an elaborate graduation ceremony a la what you might get if you graduated in the UK, or Nigeria. As far as I know, my Finnish school organizes 2 graduation ceremonies every year, but if you don’t manage to finish within any of those windows, either wait for the next ceremony, or just go put your degree to good use baby. My Dutch school organizes one ceremony for each program, and in France, at least they take the trouble to wear a gown and cap. Being that I schooled in all three aforementioned countries, there was a small ceremony, and I wore a cap. And, being the overthinker that I am, I don’t know how I did not think to find out beforehand, how to balance a graduation cap on an afro, and how to make said afro presentable afterwards. That said, MSc: Check. It was fun, and informal. This is not to say that we did not dress up; we did, but I, for instance, did not see the need for heels. (One of us wore a t-shirt and shorts, 😮 but I was too preoccupied to feel anything more than confusion on his behalf.) We had (bottomless!) drinks and loads of petit fours.

Friday: Notre Dame de la Garde and Au P’tit Quart d’Heure: Not much to say about Notre Dame de la Garde, but it is an interesting place to visit, this year is its 800th year in existence, and err… I had been (and still am) trying to learn to speak French, and I thought I was making progress. Then I went to France and someone at the entrance to the museum section of NDG surprisingly took interest in me. (I don’t look that exotic, and if you live in Marseille, then of course you see people like me everyday, but anyway…) Believe it or not, we had a conversation in French for about 15 minutes. She was doing most of the talking, and I was making what surely must have appeared to be half-arsed attempts to respond in broken French. I understood 95% of what she was saying, but of course, other than vigorous nodding and saying things like “je vivre” rather than “je vis”, my brain refused to formulate appropriate responses to demonstrate my supposed understanding. Also, a kind man at the Vieux Port saw me holding a map and looking like the tourist that I was, and proceeded to offer help – and ask questions like where I’m from, and whether I had seen the sea, and because I misunderstood and said yes (he was actually asking whether I wanted to see the sea), he went “oh, yeah, let’s go”, and started shepherding me towards a bus. When I understood what he meant, I said “not now”, in French and Dutch. As in, I ought to have said “pas maintenant”, but I said “pas nu”. Sheesh. Anyway, thank you, kind man with the beautiful tan. I got back to Aix and proceeded to drink copious amounts of wine with my classmates, at Au P’tit Quart d’Heure. Do not judge me, you would likely have done the same if you were getting 1 glass for €1. No, I did not get drunk.

I think I’ve written too much, but I’ll be back later.

*I started writing this post on August 28th. So it obviously isn’t ‘last week’ anymore, but whatever.

**In all fairness, the weather has been quite decent since last week, such that I am still wearing shorts everyday.


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